How Not to be Like God

The screen on the shed window sags against the metal side. It’s not the shed with my birdseed, so I know the damage is not the squirrel’s doing. I immediately know who to approach. “Why?” I ask my six year old.

The clever girl.
The clever girl.

“We were trying to be like God, ” she tells me. “God destroyed the world with a flood, and we destroyed the screen.”

Sophisticated, I think, and a clever attempt to get out of trouble, but terrible theology. I’ve got some theological training to do. My husband pipes up with an answer, thankfully, and I ruminate on what it means to be like God.

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2)

As dearly loved children. The phrase jumps out at me because I’m still thinking of what my dearly loved children have done. Not just the screen but those proud looks they give me when they disobey, the laughs that flit through the room when they run in disobedience. I have to remind myself sometimes that these children are dearly loved. Like me, by my Father.

We are not called to be like him while watching him from a distance. The call to be like him comes from our relationship with him. We’re dearly loved children who’ve received the gift of Christ’s sacrifice–a sacrifice that has torn the curtain and ushered us into the holy of holies. We are face to face with God. No need to pull out our binoculars and squint from a distance, trying to extract what it is exactly we’re supposed to imitate.

Live a life of love. Don’t live out some ethereal idea of “love”. A life of love implies the personifying of Christ’s character within us every day. I love how Paul qualifies for us what that life of love is, “Just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

So the life of love we imitate is 1) unselfish (compared to love being whatever makes you feel good) 2) glorifying to God (our purpose is external, not something we “discover” within us) , and 3) An offering, a sacrifice (meaning, we give up something, we submit).

And thus, Romans 12:1-2 and Galatians 5:22ff flesh out this life of love. Imitation takes us beyond ourselves and can only happen when the Spirit inhabits us and empowers us. How fragrant and pleasing this offering of imitation is to the Lord.

Be blessed, friends, in your imitation of him today. And no destroying anything, please.

Our Understanding and God’s Plans

We’re a culture of knowledge, and strangely, even though we’re compulsive and crave instant gratification, we also value a well-made decision. If we want to buy a new car, we peruse the consumer reports. If we receive a diagnosis, we research pros and cons of treatment methods. I read Birds & Blooms, hoping to lure more avian creatures to my backyard. My husband reads reviews of outdoor gear before purchasing new camping equipment.

We value being informed, and wisdom abounds in knowing. There’s nothing wrong with preparedness, but sometimes our need to know is more about control and less about wise decision making.

When was the last time you made a decision without feeling “ready”? As in, well-prepared, well-read, and information-logged? I like to play things safe. I need space and time to make a decision. Spontaneity is not high on my list of valued traits.

So how would I have responded if I’d been amongst the armies of Israel that day when the Ammonites, Moabites, and Meunites came against Jehoshaphat? The Bible tells us that all Judah fasted and came together to seek the Lord. Jehoshaphat prayed, “We do not know what to do but our eyes are on you,” (2 Chronicles 20:12). Then all men, women, and children, stood before the Lord waiting. When the Holy Spirit came upon a Levite, the answer wasn’t what Israel expected:

“You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.'”

(2 Chronicles 20:17)

They went out obediently (and maybe that’s the real miracle?), sending first, not their fiercest warriors or most strategic brains, but the singers and praisers. Truth-proclaimers. And “as they began to sing and praise” the Lord won the victory for Israel.

What would I have done? I mean, this isn’t exactly your well-researched battle plan. This is not the most intimidating front I can imagine. The Philistines sent out a nine-foot giant; Egypt sent out their top chariots, but Israel sent out singers?

Yet, I get it. The Lord inhabits the praises of His people and what more powerful weapon can there be then the presence of Almighty God? The Lord of hosts fights on a different plane of reality than we do. And if we look to him, if we silence our frenzy of well-intentioned information gathering, if we pray, “I don’t know what to do, my eyes are on you,” he’ll show us His way. He’ll fill us with praise and thanksgiving.

Next time I’m not understanding something completely—and I won’t have long to wait for such a time—I’ll remind myself that my knowledge and expertise is limited. Ultimately, it fails, for all knowledge will pass away. But the Word of the Lord stands firm forever. If I don’t feel “ready” for a decision, but instead feel “Spirited” for a decision, then I’ll take that step of faith. I’ll move in the midst of the blindness, knowing that the One who is leading has perfect eagle vision.

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What’s Covering You?

photo courtesy freedigitalphotos.net
photo courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

Radiance. You can’t miss it. It’s like driving west during the evening hour and having the sun blind you with its horizon hurrah. Radiance exacts a response from us. In the case of the sun, I squint and put the sunshade down. In the case of the Son, I bow in worship.

“I sought the Lord and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.” (Psalm 35:4-5)

As I read David’s words this morning, I’m convicted. What’s covering me? I’ve sought the Lord, looked to Him, so that means radiance, right? Then why don’t I always feel that glow?

For many years, shame has been my shadowed friend—for no apparent reason. I’ve not done anything dastardly, or had anything dastardly done to me. But sin finds the chink in our armor and nestles deep. My chink? Perfectionism. How I fail, day after day, to be who I want to be, who I think God and others want me to be.

Today is my anniversary, a day for radiance. How beautiful I felt that night of my wedding (read about that here). Nine years ago my face couldn’t help but blossom wide into smile—a smile that started in the core of my being and erupted through my countenance.

So it hits me: Looking to Him doesn’t mean I’m radiant, it means I reflect His radiance. It’s the Son shining in my eyes, blinding my view of myself. Decimating the shadow of shame. I’m covered . . .

. . . by His cloud, “Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” (Exodus 40:34)

. . . with his garment, “Who are you?’ he asked. ‘I am your servant Ruth,’ she said. ‘Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer.’  ‘The LORD bless you, my daughter,’ he replied. ‘This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor.  And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character.’” (Ruth 3:9-11)

. . . with His protection, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” (Psalm 91:4)

. . . in righteousness, “I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10)

Celebrating today, not only nine years of life with my best friend, but years of His covering, His radiance, His life glowing within and upon me.

Worship with me? Sing to Jesus, Fernando Ortega.

What to do when beauty grips you by the heart and won’t let go . . .

He stands on top of a mountain and feels the Spirit of God pulse through his body. Life. Breath. Grace. Good gifts that seem to well up within as he surveys the panorama of jagged peaks.

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This is Alaska. Wildness that reaches inside you and awakens possibility. Beauty that whispers steady hope to your weary soul.

This is God: Creator of that wildness and Whisperer of that beauty.

What do you do when beauty makes you ache?

You praise. You get on your knees and beg the Almighty for more revelation. And then you come off that mountain top and live out that beauty in the everyday. In the muck and mire of government shutdowns, countries at war, accidents that take lives, and violence that invades innocence. And in that living out, you cry for more beauty. You cry to see Him more.

Ann Voskamp calls this practicing Eucharisteo (the Greek words of giving thanks). Jesus broke bread and gave thanks. Then he died on the cross. But death wasn’t the final word. Christ rose, grinding death into the ground and extracting beauty.

This beauty–the power of God in the resurrection of the dead–sings to us in the quiet moments, when we settle our souls and listen with our hearts. This is the beauty I hear whispered when hiking through the woods, staring across the vastness of the ocean, or yesterday, when passing a beautiful large wooden gate. Yes, a gate with a large iron hinge. It beckoned me to enter into the moment and praise.

So whether it’s mountains and wildness . . . (and who wouldn’t be snagged by the beauty of this?)

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. . .  or cities, people, or gates . . . open your ears to the Whisperer and praise Him.

Your turn: What situations of beauty have you been in that cause your soul to weep with joy?

Wrestling with God

Jacob rolled on the ground throughout the night, hard rock pressing into his back, his opponent pressing into his side. He fought hard. He fought with fear. He fought with determination. Who was this Man with whom he struggled? “Bless me,” Jacob cried out, knowing that this Wrestler was divine.

Do you need to meet God in a physical way today? Do you need to release some anger or fear to him? Do you need fresh sustenance?

He meets you where you are. With Hagar (Genesis 21), God brought tenderness and life-giving water. With Jacob (Genesis 32), God showed his face and gave Jacob new name. With Elijah (1 Kings 19), God brought hope and renewed vision.

What will God give you today? Nothing short of what you need.